Moratorium proposed on gas, electric rates
Legislation has been introduced in the state Senate to create a moratorium on gas and electric company rate increases.
Sen. James Skoufis, D-Newburgh, is proposing a freeze on electric and gas prices, rates and charges after a year in which many customers paid much higher costs. Skoufis’ bill would prevent companies that received an approved rate plan dating back to 2021 from increasing rates for four years. Companies that have not increased rates would have their rates frozen for two years.
“New York residents experienced an enormous surge in their gas and electric costs over this past winter,” Skoufis wrote in his legislative justification. “As of Dec., 30, 2021, it was estimated that 935,931 customers in the state currently owe arrears worth over $1.2 billion to utility companies with the number of affected residents likely increasing since then. The legislation seeks to address this serious issue by placing a price freeze on current electric and gas rates as well as a moratorium on rate increases for 2-4 years depending on if a company received a rate increase from 2021 to when the legislation is enacted.”
In early March, Skoufis said the Senate Committee on Investigations and Government Operations, which he chairs, will be looking into the recent spike in utility bills. Skoufis said his committee will begin its probe by requesting documents from the utility companies, under threat of subpoena, and give them a few weeks to provide them.
When the investigation is concluded, the committee will recommend changes, including both legislative and regulatory steps to be taken.
Skoufis said his investigation will determine whether the utilities did all they could for consumers. And it will address these questions, among others:
“Were utilities using this crisis as an opportunity to profiteer? Were the suppliers using this crisis as an opportunity to profiteer?” Skoufis said.
Experts said the increases were caused by a combination of a cold December and January, more demand for power, and a reliance on electricity generated by plants that burn natural gas, which is also seeing cost spikes.
Also, state policies promoting renewable energy from wind, solar and hydro power sources have yet to replace the 2,000 megawatts of power generated by the Indian Point nuclear power plant.
That plant, in the Westchester County village of Buchanan, generated about 25% of the metropolitan region’s electricity needs until it closed last year.
Skoufis has also pushed against a rate increase proposed by Orange and Rockland Utilities, which wants to increase its electric delivery revenues by $24.5 million, and its gas delivery revenues by nearly $10 million over the next three years. In recent months, neighboring utility Central Hudson got the green light from PSC in November on its own three-year rate plans, enabling the company’s electric delivery revenues to jump $16 million and gas delivery revenues to jump close to $12 million by 2024.